Friday, May 13, 2016

All consciousness, all the time

Feel the sensation of your foot on the ground. That sensation is consciousness. I don’t mean that consciousness is the activity by which you experience the sensation; I mean that some stuff called consciousness has taken on a particular configuration that you describe as “me feeling my foot on the ground.”

You could also call this property “beingness.” It’s actually misleading to call it a “property,” because it’s not a property of something else. It is instead the sheer fact of existence and being-experienced-ness rolled into one.

These things — existing and being experienced — are not actually separable. That’s because they aren’t two different things, but two different concepts we’ve invented for the same thing. This probably sounds preposterous: obviously the Eiffel Tower exists even when it is not being experienced. But notice what actually happens while you are making this assertion. You imagine the Eiffel Tower (or at least the words) — that is, you experience that imagined thought — and then experience the thought “there, that thing exists even though I am not experiencing it.” But at no point in this process did you encounter some thing that existed without being experienced. (Indeed, what would that even mean?)

Which isn’t to say that the Eiffel Tower doesn’t exist when it’s not being experienced — that’s quite beside the point. I’m not trying to feed you a philosophy about the world. I’m trying to call attention to a feature of your experience that you may have overlooked before. In brief: all and everything you have ever experienced is this stuff we’re calling consciousness, including all the thoughts screaming that there must be something outside experience to explain all of this.

If you find yourself trying to intellectually confirm or deny what I’m saying, I’ve missed my goal. The goal is to repeatedly call attention to the sheer fact of experience. Not experience as some abstract activity, but as the stuff out of which everything in your present reality is made.

Your experience of time? That’s also just consciousness taking on a particular form. Spend a moment and confirm for yourself that this is true. You never actually experience time. Instead, you experience memory and anticipation, and then the thought that “therefore there must be time.” Memory, anticipations, and time are all just configurations of consciousness. What you call "time" is just another clever rearrangement of consciousness.

Brick by brick, every bit of your experienced world is revealed to be of a single flavor: the flavor of awakeness contorting itself into a marvelous display. Yet there is a bastion deep in your mind, still holding out: yes, perhaps the world I experience is all consciousness, but there is a real reality "out there" to explain all this. Maybe so. But you owe it to yourself to discover firsthand what that bastion is made out of. By now you already suspect the answer, but it will defend itself valiantly until you walk up to it with a microscope. "Don't listen to this guy." "None of this proves anything. I can prove it." "Prove-ity prove prove."

But we're not done yet. Here comes a big one.

Your sense of existing, of being someone looking out of your eyes, is just one more configuration of the same stuff. If that is so, then who is experiencing all this stuff? If you’ve been following closely, you’ll notice that the question is incoherent. Consciousness does not require a someone else to experience it. It is itself the sheer fact of experience. The feel of your foot on the ground; the pixels making up your visual field; the supposed experience of time; the thoughts in your mind; the sense of being the one experiencing all this: all just consciousness experiencing itself. It is the subject and the object. There's no "you" behind it all.

Perhaps I’ve lost you by now. If so, that’s okay: you at least have the tools to investigate what I’m saying. Why would you actually do so? Perhaps a long-buried part of you (“you”) recognizes something in these words. Perhaps bit by bit the recognition comes back: oh shit, this show is all consciousness, all the time — all pure fucking magic, all the time. If so, cultivate that recognition. (And if this has the sense of pulling the rug out from under your own feet, you're definitely on the right track.) You may already sense that it leads somewhere impossibly good.

Footnote: every time someone marvels at the existence of the universe and tries to figure out its origin, or at the existence of life and its origin, or at how the brain (supposedly) creates consciousness, they're really marveling at this. Consider: consciousness is the property whose very appearance gives you reason to exclaim "holy shit, a universe exists!" or "I exist!" or "I'm alive!"

From this perspective, all of these recognitions are just whispers of awakening bringing itself into our awareness in ways that we can appreciate intellectually -- and thus take seriously.


Miss B said...

This is a fantastic line:

"Brick by brick, every bit of your experienced world is revealed to be of a single flavor: the flavor of awakeness contorting itself into a marvelous display."

Not to word smith- but it might be more accurate to replace the word "awakeness" with "sleep" or "dream." Because we are are indeed living a dream. And by "living the dream" I don't mean the surfer phrase of living life to the fullest. But living in our dream like state which we confuse to be "this real thing that is out there"

Aditya said...

Hey sorry, forgot to respond (not sure if you have notifications on anyway).

Thanks for the thoughts! From my perspective, "sleep" or "dream" is an analogy for the state when we do NOT realize that it is ultimately all awakeness on display. When it is revealed, it is no longer sleep!